Friday, March 13, 2009

Trauma (1993)

Reviewed by JM

Inspired by B-Movie Becky’s posting on Dario Argento’s Opera, I decided to set aside my stack of DVDs to review and instead go through my little collection of Dario Argento movies.
B-Movie Becky's review was well thought out, intelligent, and even included footnotes. My review will not be any of those things. I will save that sort of hard work for more competent writers. I am much more comfortable sniping.

Since the Tower Farm website is dedicated to “slashers and sleaze”, I felt that the best choice for a review would be Deep Red. But, which Deep Red would I choose? Would it be the classic version (1975) starring David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi. Some would argue this is Argento’s best picture. Of course, I like Tenebre better. This is pretty much the same movie as Deep Red. But, Argento made it seven years later (still starring Daria Nicolodi). Of course, Argento returned to form in 2001 with Sleepless. Again, it is pretty much the same movie as Deep Red. And, again, I like it a little more.

No, my favorite version of Deep Red was released in 1993 and it is called Trauma. In fact, I love this movie so much that, before I had it on DVD, I tracked it down on VHS. Then, I bought a terrible copy of it from Ebay because that version had one or two extra scenes (and had Spanish subtitles… weird). I kept both of these (along with a script for the movie I also bought on Ebay… what is wrong with me?) until the full, uncut version was finally released on DVD by Anchor Bay in 2005.

Oh, god. I just remembered I had a Trauma poster I kept in my bedroom for years. In apartment after apartment. I hate myself.

In 1993, Dario Argento made the brave decision to film Deep Red for the third time… without Daria Nicolodi! Don’t worry, though, a more stellar cast, I cannot imagine.

Let’s just spend a little time on the names that received billing on the poster. James Russo, Frederic Forrest, Piper Laurie, and Brad Dourif.

Yeah… I am not clear on the first two either… are they famous?

The next name on the list is Piper Laurie, though. Piper Laurie gives the sort of performance that makes anything Karen Black has done look downright timid by comparison. As our heroine’s crazy mother, she amps up the work she did over a decade earlier in Carrie. Just wait until you see her in a Jedi-style hooded robe channeling the spirit of Nicolas.

Brad Dourif is best known as the voice of Chucky in all of the Child’s Play movies. His part is not huge in this one. As usual, he plays a crazy washout. But, it is memorable and his death is pretty cool.

The movie’s real star did not even get her name on the poster back in 1993. This is Asia Argento, the director’s daughter. She later gained American success in movies like XXX, and…. hmmm. Well, she is still working and has earned a fairly large underground following through movies like…. hmmm. Anyway, she has been in four or five of her father’s movies to date. Look her up on the internet and you will find a lot of pictures of her in various states of undress. Which, I guess explains the underground following.

Trauma was “the Italian Hitchcock’s” first American movie. However, outside of the Golden Gate shots (that strongly recall shots from Vertigo) you would never know it. Everything about this movie screams sleazy Italian giallo. From the convoluted plot (?), to the black gloved killer, to the various beheadings… this is pure Eurotrash. It just benefits from having less voice dubbing.

The beheadings, by the way, are… well… I am really at a loss for words here. In this movie, the heads of the victims are able to scream, utter a word or two, or do just about whatever for a moment or two before they die…. To be clear- the heads that are cut off live for a few moments and can whisper out words as they die.

This only happens in Italy.

Asia plays Aura, a young woman with an eating disorder that becomes entangled in a murder mystery after her parents are killed (while her mother was performing a séance). Soon after, people start dying off.

Aura hooks up with David (Christopher Rydell), a young artist working for a news station that is interested in her story. What do you mean that is not a real job? I am sure that any reputable news organization hires people to draw things. The actor, Christopher Rydell, would later show up a Megadeth video and not much else. Too bad. He is good in this one.
Too bad? What am I saying? This guy was in a giallo and in a Megadeth video. In my opinion, this make him the most successful actor in Hollywood.

The two start connecting the clues… that all lead back to Aura’s family and the mysterious person named Nicolas. Or Knee-co-loss, as it sounds to my American ears.

By the way, all of those heads? Tom Savini did the makeup effects for this one. So, they are exactly what fans of Friday the 13th would expect and demand. No complaints here.

Four fingers.


  1. Hey JM... Christopher Rydell is the lead guy in the movie? I always thought that was James Russo. So who is this James Russo, and why is he on the box cover? I'm only Argento could make me.

  2. I'm glad I provided some inspiration! Believe it or not, I haven't seen Trauma. I've been afraid of 90's Argento ever since the Stendhal Syndrome and the 2000's Masters of Horror entries didn't help either.

    I just moved it up on my netflix que. I didn't know Tom Savini was involved! Now, I HAVE to see this movie.

    Don't forget, Asia was also in Romero's Land of the Dead.

  3. Argento's Masters Of Horror stuff is terrible! I can't wait to review Jenifer. The worst one ever!!


  4. Hey Billy- I thought the same thing! Turns out James Russo is Captain Travis... I just watched this movie yesterday and barely remember him. So, the movie's two leads are not on the poster, at all.

  5. Glad to see some love for Trauma. I have always loved this flick. For a long time, I was worried that nostalgia was all that was keeping it special to me but then it FINALLY came out on DVD and it turned out that it's just awesome.